If most of us were asked to fill in the above blank, we'd likely say "love" and would likely echo the Luther Vandross lyrics of "What the world needs now, Is love, sweet love, It's the only thing, That there's just too little of." However, as good as that answer might be, today, I'm inclined to fill in "a good theology of the body."
I was recently introduced to statistical data collected re the Pornography Industry:
- Size of the Industry $57 billion world-wide = $12 billion U.S.Adult Videos $20 billion; Escort Services $11 billion; Magazines $7.5 billion; Sex Clubs $5 billion; Phone Sex $4.5 billion; Cable & Pay Per View $2.5 billion; Internet $2.5 billionCD-Rom $1.5 billion; Novelties $1 billion; Other $1.5 billion
- Porn revenue is larger than all combined revenues of all professional football, baseball and basketball franchises.
- U.S. porn revenue exceeds the combined revenues of ABC, CBS, and NBC ($6.2 billion)
- Child pornography generates $3 billion annually
Internet Porn Statistics:
- Pornographic Web sites 4.2 million (12% of total web sites)
- Pornographic pages 372 million
- Daily pornographic search engine requests 68 million (25% of total search engine requests)
- Daily pornographic e-mails 2.5 billion (8% of total e-mails)
- Average daily pornographic e-mails/users 4.5 per Internet user
- Monthly pornographic downloads (peer-to-peer) 1.5 billion (35% of all downloads)
- Web sites offering illegal child pornography 100,000
- Sexual solicitations of youth made in chat rooms 89%
- Youths who receive sexual solicitation 20%
- Worldwide visitors to pornographic Web sites 72 million annually
Children's Exposure to Pornography:
- Average age of first Internet exposure to pornography 8 years old
- Nearly one-third (31%) have a computer in their bedroom, and one in five (20%) have an Internet connection there
- Largest consumer of Internet pornography 12-17 age group
- 15-17 years olds having multiple hard-core exposures 80%
- 8-16 year olds having viewed porn online 90% (most while doing homework)
- 7-17 year olds who would freely give out home address 29%
- 7-17 year olds who would freely give out email address 14%
- Children's characters linked to thousands of porn links 26 (including Pokeman and Action Man)
Pornography offends against the divine plan for the body and for the intimacy of sexual union. It fixates on certain normal bodily functions in an immodest and obsessive way. It offends against chastity generically and in ways that reveal its specific evil. Following the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we can identify several ways in which pornography harms both those who produce it and those who use it.
The Pontifical Council for Social Communications (Pornography and Violence in the Media: A Pastoral Response, nos. 14-17). describes the evils of behavior or character that result from pornography, such as:
It can have a progressively desensitizing effect, gradually rendering individuals morally numb.
It can be addictive, causing some viewers to require progressively more perverse material to achieve the same degree of stimulation.
It can undermine marriage and family life since it demeans their sacred value.
In some cases, it can incite its users to commit more overtly violent crimes such as rape, child abuse, and even murder
We come to know one another through our bodily experiences of seeing, talking, and listening to each other. God intends the affective and aggressive drives to support each other in maturation toward strong, faithful, and self-giving love. When the affective drive turns to lust and the aggressive drive to violence, both the integrity of the person and communion between persons are lost.
Issues involving sexuality, which offers the prospect of the most intimate experience of the drive toward social communion, are not easily addressed. Even within morally deformed acts, there can lurk a hint of the ability to satisfy humanity's powerful longing for intimacy. This is the promise with which pornography often ensnares a person. The pleasure it gives is offered as a substitute for genuine intimacy. The result of this pleasure is not intimacy but a disconnection from oneself and from others. It can even become addictive. The body and its functions, including sex, are reduced to the object of increasingly bizarre fantasies that must be taken in larger doses to reproduce the thrill of the initial involvement with pornography.
In dealing with pornography, it is important not to treat only the symptom. As an illegitimate response to legitimate desires for emotional and physical intimacy, pornography must find its remedy in a conversion to an understanding of the body and sexuality found in their intrinsic meaning as well as in revelation. This conversion culminates in an active witness to the dignity of our embodied existence. It includes sensitivity to each person's need for the bond with others that God has placed in us. Such a witness enables us to overcome the deceptions of pornography that separate us from a true appreciation for our bodies.
Isolating sexuality from a moral context and using it to titillate or degrade others for one's own profit or pleasure is always wrong.
☩ Frederick Henry
The theme of this year’s Share lent campaign of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace is Building a World of Justice.
Through the collective compassion of Canadian Catholics, Development and Peace helps to create the building blocks of a socially just world by supporting sustainable development projects in the Global South and through educational work on international justice issues here at home.
This year’s lenten campaign builds on the foundations already put in place. This year, for instance, Development and Peace brought attention to the issue of the privatization of water sources. Many communities in the Global South have less and less access to clean water sources. Organizations such as KRUHA in Indonesia, with the support of Development and Peace, are taking action to guarantee affordable access to water for all Indonesians, especially the poor and marginalized.
In its annual Fall Action campaign, Development and Peace asked Canadian Catholics to pledge to choose tap water over bottled water whenever possible, as a way to show support for publicly owned and operated water systems, and as a gesture of solidarity for those who do not have that choice. From this campaign, many schools, municipalities and parishes have become bottled water free zones, including the Edmonton and Calgary Pastoral offices.
Another important aspect of the work of Development and Peace is responding to humanitarian crises. Last year, many of you donated with extraordinary generosity in response to the emergency in Haiti following the tragic earthquake. Development and Peace has put in place a five-year program to help communities cope with the devastation. So far, Development and Peace and its partners have helped thousands of children return to school, distributed seeds to farmers who used up their stocks to feed the displaced and has begun a housing reconstruction project in a community that was the epicentre of the quake. Development and Peace has many ongoing projects that aim to strengthen Haitian society as the country rebuilds itself. I encourage you to visit the Development and Peace Web site (www.devp.org) to learn more about these programs.
At the 2010 Annual Plenary Assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), who created Development and Peace in 1967, the assembled bishops received the positive results of a year-long initiative by a committee of bishops (of which I was a member) who worked closely with Development and Peace on an organizational renewal that reaffirms the social justice mission of the organization in the light of Pope Benedict’s Caritas in Veritate.
Key points from the report by the Ad Hoc Committee:
- CCODP is currently working on 248 projects, each of which were reviewed by the Committee. Following its review, the members of the Committee were satisfied with the results. CCODP is preparing protocols to ensure that organizations requesting future funding are fully aware that CCODP is a Catholic agency which adheres to Catholic principles.
- Any organizations requesting funding will also be obliged by the same protocols to disclose any projects that they may be involved in which would contradict Catholic principles of respect for life. This exchange of information between CCODP and its partners will involve a process of dialogue, discussion and decision.
- In addition, the proposed revision of the CCODP Partnership Agreement will reflect the obligation to respect life values and conformity with Church teachings.
- A proposed exit strategy has been developed by CCODP for the cancellation of any controversial partnerships.
- Each of the proposed documents will be made public once they have been formally approved.
- CCODP will ensure that any future statements on problematic partners will be developed in consultation with the CCCB.
- CCODP has drafted proposed criteria on ethical issues for working with its partners. These will provide a “theological framework” for CCODP activities.
- In order to ensure that there is good communication with local Bishops in developing countries, CCODP has already developed a specific protocol by which its program officers, as part of their regular routine, will establish contact with local Bishops, including visiting them and providing information on CCODP and its local partners.
Today, more than ever, our parishes are called to be communities of “salt” and “light;” to help believers live their faith in their families, communities, work, and world. We need parishes that will not “lose their flavour” nor put their “light under a basket.” We seek to build evangelizing communities of faith, justice, and solidarity, where all believers are challenged to bring God’s love, justice, and peace to a world in desperate need of the seasoning of the gospel and the light of Catholic teaching.
Pope Benedict’s latest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, highlights the importance of the social dimension of the Gospel. A user-friendly study guide, A Guide for Discussion and Action, has been prepared by Fr. Bill Ryan, S.J. and the Jesuit Forum. This resource can be downloaded at no cost from either the Web site of Ontario Bishops (acbo.on.ca) or the Web site of the Jesuit Forum for Social Faith and Justice (jesuitforum.ca). This instrument would be fruitful in small groups and you might want to give some consideration to its usage in further enriching your parish in its quest to build a world of justice.
☩ Frederick Henry